Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has certainly been no stranger to good fortune. Born into a privileged family in New York, he went on to study at the esteemed institutions of Eton and Oxford before entering a world of politics and journalism.



Indeed, much of his political life thrived off opportune timing and media manipulation; swinging along zip wires and hosting ‘Have I Got News For You’, he became “good old Boris” the clumsy, offensive – yet somehow likeable – buffoon, a man of the people, the ‘Farage before Farage’ who anyone could have a joke with. Taking credit for other people’s initiatives – such as the Olympics and ‘Boris Bikes’ both of which planning began under Ken Livingston – and making up ridiculous ‘facts’ to make his point became excusable under the headline of “that’s Boris”: an excuse one would find hard to justify with any other politician.



Even being stabbed in the back by Michael Gove in the 2016 Conservative Leadership election, perhaps, seemed a blessing in disguise as Theresa May took the bulk of the Brexit disputes. This left Johnson in a comfortable position to merely slide into Number 10, making minor alterations May’s deal to become the man of the hour, who will “get Brexit done”. With a whopping majority and internal political threats pacified – Sajid Javid forced into the backbenches, Dominic Raab appeased with a token ‘First Secretary of State’ title and Michael Gove given the prestigious job of the ‘Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster’ (which normally constitutes a deputy prime minister) – Johnson seemed to be in an enviable position; no less powerful than the Iron Lady of Margaret Thatcher in her prime.



That is until now… With a pandemic dubbed a ‘war’ against an invisible enemy, his jovial blusterous talk of “squashing sombreros” has begun to wear thin and his Sergeant Wilsonesque advice (‘would you mind awfully staying at home’) just wouldn’t cut it. Indeed, much of his government’s response has been characterised by nonchalant bluster and clerical issues: missing out on EU aid due to misreading Emails, refusing ventilator production from G-tech and failing to deliver even sub-standard personal protective equipment (PPE) to front-line staff. The government’s initial response seems nothing but shambolic and half-hearted, bringing into question whether Boris Johnson is really of leadership material with criticism coming far and wide from scientific specialists to the Conservative Party’s most faithful members such as its former leader, Sir Iain Duncan Smith. Others, such as George Freeman MP, have questioned why he does not take precedent from the Second World War and establish a National Government of Unity with the likely next Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer.



Boris Johnson has even been upstaged by his very own chancellor, Rishi Sunak. The young, malleable and initially-thought of as subservient Chancellor, who seemed at the mercy of Johnson – laying off dozens of advisors for more ‘Number 10– centric’ governance, emerged something of a hero in recent weeks. With his unprecedented economic measures – dubbed the world’s most generous and highly uncharacteristic of a party infamous for its savings and austerity measures after the last major banking crisis of 2008 – Sunak has been hailed Prime Minister-material, further questioning the tenability of Johnson’s premiership.



However, it would be unfair to claim that no shred of statesman-like authority has emerged as Johnson, has indeed, been working in unprecedented times and did, finally, establish a ‘lockdown’ status. And with the benefit of hindsight, it is so easy to criticise past actions.



As chancellor Rishi Sunak says, “We will be judged by our capacity for compassion and individual acts of kindness.” One only has to wonder whether Boris Johnson will emerge the blundering buffoon who rose to the occasion in a statesman-like manner or the negligent Prime Minister who washed his hands of full responsibility.



By Alexander Chopra of Wilson's School